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LEFT EYE: The Myth of the Eternal Return, Mircea Eliade

Updated: Dec 6, 2020

LEFT EYE reflects on The Myth of the Eternal Return, by Mircea Eliade,

Myths serve as models for ceremonies that periodically reactualize the tremendous events that occurred at the beginning of time (xxviii).

According to Eliade, a culture’s creation myth can be seen in its ritual renewals of life and leadership.

The essential thing is that there is everywhere a conception of the end and the beginning of a temporal period, based on the observation of biocosmic rhythms and forming part of a larger system—the system of periodic purifications (cf. purges, fasting, confession of sins, etc.) and of the periodic regeneration of life. (52)

In certain societies the ceremonies of extinguishing and rekindling the fire predominate; in others, it is the material expulsion (by noise and violent gestures) of demons and diseases; in yet others, the expulsion of the scapegoat in human or animal form. But the meaning of the whole ceremony, like that of each of its constituent elements, is sufficiently clear: on the occasion of the division of time into independent units, ‘years,’ we witness not only the effectual cessation of a certain temporal interval and the beginning of another, but also the abolition of the past year and of past time. And this is the meaning of ritual purifications: a combustion, an annulling of the sins and faults of the individual and of those of the community as a whole—not a mere ‘purifying.’ Regeneration, as its name indicates, is a new birth. (54)

What are the creation myths of your culture? How are they renewed? And on what cycle?

Mircea Eliade is seen as a father of Religious Studies and was the founding chair of the University of Chicago Religious Studies Department. The Chair continues to carry his name and is currently held by Wendy Doniger.

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